It's a question that's been floated during the Kansas City Chiefs' last two playoff runs. Did the Buffalo Bills make a mistake by not drafting Patrick Mahomes in 2017?
Here's what happened: The Bills held the No. 10 overall pick in the 2017 draft — a draft led by newly hired head coach Sean McDermott. The Bills decided to trade down, giving up the No. 10 pick to Kansas City for the Chiefs' No. 27 pick, a third-round pick and 2018 first-round selection.
The Chiefs used the No. 10 pick to draft Mahomes, who shined at Texas Tech. He was one of the top quarterback prospects in that draft class. The Bills needed a franchise quarterback, but didn't address the position in that draft. With the No. 27 pick, the Bills selected cornerback Tre'Davious White.
The Bills used the other picks by the Chiefs to move up in the next two drafts. In 2017, the Bills packaged the third-round selection in a trade with the Rams. That trade allowed the Bills to select wide receiver Zay Jones in the second round. The following year, the Bills moved up to take linebacker Tremaine Edmunds.
When Mahomes had an MVP season in 2018, some in the Bills Mafia questioned whether the team made a mistake by trading away that pick. Some beat reporters got in on the action, too. Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20.
Those questions resurfaced Sunday after Mahomes led the Chiefs to a win in the AFC Championship game and the team's first Super Bowl appearance in 50 years.
There is no doubt Mahomes is a generational talent. He will be the Chiefs' quarterback for a long time. He makes throws many quarterbacks wouldn't even think about doing. His mobility is an asset. He's been an absolute monster in the playoffs.
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But there are a few things to consider:
• Mahomes has a lot of talent, but he also benefits from playing for one of the game's great offensive minds (Andy Reid) and a load of weapons at his disposal. His favorite target is Travis Kelce, arguably the best tight end in the NFL. He has Tyreek Hill, whose speed poses problems for opposing defenses. The addition of rookie Mecole Hardman provides him with another speedster. Demarcus Robinson is a decent option. Sammy Watkins, a former Bill, had 673 yards for the Chiefs this season.
• Unlike 2018, when it was clear the Bills were looking for a quarterback, there wasn't that same level of certainty in 2017. The Bills had a new head coach running things and Doug Whaley, the team's general manager, was about to be fired. And it's easy to forget that while Mahomes was still available at No. 10, so was Deshaun Watson. It was Watson, not Mahomes, who was mentioned as a possible Bills draft pick.
• Entering the 2017 season, the Bills still had Tyrod Taylor — a capable quarterback, but certainly not part of their future plans. While quarterback would be a long-term need, the team had a more pressing need: Cornerback. Stephon Gilmore, the team's top cornerback since he was drafted in 2012, became a free agent after the Bills decided not to use the franchise tag on him after the 2016 season. Enter Tre'Davious White. The Bills drafted White in 2017 and he contributed right away. He's established himself as one of the NFL's top corners — he was named first-team all-pro after the 2019 season.
Mahomes would've been a great addition for Buffalo. With his talent, he would've given them a huge boost. But would he have won the MVP award in 2018 with the Bills' receiving corps that season? It's doubtful. There were no Travis Kelces or Tyreek Hills on this team.
It's hard to say the Bills lost that trade because of the players they drafted. White is a stud in his own right. Edmunds has emerged as a defensive leader for the Bills and one of the better middle linebackers in the NFL. Jones flopped in Buffalo and was traded to the Raiders, but two out of three ain't bad.
Plus, the Bills have their own young quarterback. Josh Allen isn't on Mahomes' level. It's really not even close. Mahomes had success right away as a starter, while Allen is in the development stages. But Allen has many of the same skills as Mahomes. It's not crazy to think Allen could, in 2020 and beyond, come closer to that level than he is now.
With the benefit of hindsight, should the Bills have drafted Mahomes? Sure. But don't forget the two key players the Bills have on the roster because of that trade.
Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.
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